TEMPE -- The No. 4/4 Arizona State University softball team will be the No. 9 seed in the 2014 NCAA Women’s Softball Tournament and will host the Tempe Regional this weekend at Farrington Stadium beginning on Friday, May 16. The Sun Devils will take on Dartmouth at 3 p.m. PT on Friday in Tempe and the winner will go on to play the winner of the Michigan-San Diego State game on Saturday. All games this weekend will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
#10THINGS (Twitter-Friendly Notes)
@ASUSoftball has compiled a 30-3 record at home since 2006 in the postseason and went undefeated at home in last year’s tourney.
@ASUSoftball’s has won 6 of the last 8 when trailing by < 3 following the 5th, 6th or top of 7th innings. Was 0-5 prior to current streak.
@DalPal12 is 15-2 in Tempe in her postseason career with a 1.35 ERA with six shutouts and a no hitter along with 102 strikeouts
@A_Freeman9 has reached safely in all but four games this season, hitting safely in all but nine of 53 games played.
@ASUSoftball has been ranked in 138-straight @NFCAOrg polls and has been in the top ten of 127 of those.
With this possible being last weekend at home for ASU seniors, the group has posted a 151-17 record at home in last four seasons.
@ASUSoftball is making its 26th NCAA postseason appearance, fourth-most of the 64 team’s in this year’s tournament.
@ASUSoftball is 83-49 all-time in the NCAA Tournament but is 53-15 since 2006 with seventh trips to @WCWS and two titles.
The Sun Devils had nine players named to the All-@Pac12 teams and six to the @NFCAOrg All-West Region Teams this week.
@ASUSoftball has never played Dartmouth before in program history and has only played an Ivy League school once before.
In The Rankings
After winning the first game of the team’s UCLA series, ASU gave up a seventh inning lead in game two loss before taking a 9-2 loss in the series finale to drop the series and thus drop one spot in both the NFCA/USA Today Coaches Poll and the ESPN/USA Softball weekly rankings. Despite being the No. 4 team in the rankings, the Sun Devils received the No. 9 seed overall for the 2014 Women’s Softball Tournament, coinciding with the team’s No. 9 ranking in the Ratings Per Index (RPI).
The View From The Top
Over the past eight seasons, the Sun Devils have been among the most dominant teams in the nation. One need look no further than the weekly NFCA Coaches Poll to get a gage of that. The Sun Devils have been ranked in 138 consecutive Coaches Polls, a streak that dates back to Week 2 of the 2006 season. The Sun Devils entered the top-10 in Week 6 of that season and have since been ranked in the top 10 in 127 of the 138 polls that have taken place since the team entered the rankings in 2006.
Arizona State softball’s senior class of Bailey Wigness, Dallas Escobedo, Cheyenne Coyle, Alix Johnson, Mackenzie Popescue, and Lindsey Edgerton is in action at Farrington Softball Stadium for potentially final time this weekend, and the group will leave behind the most well-defended field in the Pac-12 Conference. Through four years, the 2014 seniors have won a staggering 151 games at Farrington, and have only lost 17, for a stunning winning percentage of .898. The No. 2 team in the league over the last four years? That school down south, at .802.
Feels Like the First Time
You aren’t going to find Dartmouth on many schedules for ASU sports and softball is no exception. When the Sun Devils take on the Big Green on Friday, it will be the first-ever matchup between the two teams in program history. In fact, ASU has played an Ivy League school just once before when it took on Princeton in 2004. Dartmouth is making its very first NCAA postseason appearance following a dominating season in the Ivy League, compiling an 18-2 record en route to its first-ever conference crown. Dartmouth is led by Kristen Rumley, a junior lefty with a 1.86 ERA and an 18-7 record that also happens to be hitting .303 with 11 doubles this season. Morgan McCalmon leads the Big Green with a .389 average this season and six homers while Katie MacEachern has eight long balls this season to go with a team-leading 30 RBI and a .344 batting average.
For the second consecutive seasons, the Sun Devils have a chance to play the Michigan Wolverines after having played them once during the regular season. Last season, Michigan eliminated ASU from the WCWS after playing the Sun Devils earlier in the season at the Judi Garman Classic. This season, ASU topped Michigan in a 2-0 decision at the Judi Garman tournament and will have a chance to play the Wolverines again should the top seeds from each of the opening day lineups advance. ASU and Michigan have met in each of the last four seasons, with UM holding a 3-2 advantage in that time. Michigan enters the weekend with a 42-12 record and is ranked 13th in both the Coaches and ESPN polls. The team is led by back-to-back Big Ten Player of the year, Sierra Romero, who enters the weekend with an NCAA-leading .510 batting average with 16 home runs and 62 RBI. Romero went 0-for-3 in the earlier contest between the two teams this season in a Dallas Escobedo one-hitter. The Wolverines have split most of the time in the circle this season almost evenly between Haylie Wagner and Megan Betsa. Wagner enters the weekend with a 21-3 record and a 1.55 ERA while Betsa is 16-3 with a 1.97 ERA.
In another case of deja vu, the Sun Devils will welcome San Diego State to the Tempe Regional for the fourth time since 2009 and the second straight regional. San Diego State is 39-17 overall and possesses a solid lineup of hitters, averaging .303 as a team this season while also being paced by Mountain West Pitcher of the Year, Danielle O’Toole. O’Toole went 30-8 this season with a 1.66 ERA and 184 strikeouts.
Tempe Regional - Home of the Lefties
While Arizona State lays claim to possibly to most famous “Lefty” of all-time in PGA golfer Phil Mickelson, there will be plenty of lefties of a different sort this weekend. All three teams outside of ASU in the regional lay claim to a left-handed ace in the circle (Rumley at Dartmouth, Wagner at Michigan and O’Toole at San Diego State).
The Sun Devils are making their 26th appearance in NCAA Tournament history, the fourth-highest tally of the 64 teams in this year’s tournament behind only UCLA, Arizona and Florida State. This also marks the 10th consecutive NCAA appearance for ASU. ASU is 83-49 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and is 53-15 since 2006 in the tournament with two NCAA Championships and seven trips to the WCWS in that time with an incredible 30-3 record at home in the span.
A K of a Different Sort
Those familiar with ASU softball are familiar with the K’s that Dallas Escobedo has a penchant for (having reached 1,000 of those for her career this season) but ASU reached abother K milestone this year. ASU head coach Craig Nicholson picked up his 1,000 career victory with a 5-1 win over Utah in the opening game of the series. He now has 1,008 wins under his belt after going 723-90 in a decade of action at Central Arizona College before leading Ball State to being perennial contenders in the MAC with a 241-162 record overall during his time there. With 39 wins under his belt this season, Nicholson finds himself with a career 1008-262-1 record (.795).
Craig Nicholson Leading the Way
Craig Nicholson was hired on June 30. The head coach at Ball State for the past seven seasons, Nicholson amassed a 241-162 record with the Cardinals and holds a 1008-262-1 career record. Nicholson replaces Clint Myers, who accepted a similar position at Auburn on June 14. On top of coaching at Ball State, Nicholson was the associate head coach for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) in 2008 and helped the team to a NPF title.
The fastest coach in BSU program history to pass the 100 and 200-win marks, Nicholson was instrumental in Ball State capturing four Mid-American Conference (MAC) regular season championships (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013), a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and the program’s first All-American. Offensive minded, Nicholson saw much growth in the Ball State program under his tutelage. Not since UCLA’s Sue Enquist retired following a World Series appearance in 2006 has a program coming off an appearance in Oklahoma City gone through a coaching change, making the Sun Devils a very unique program in that regard this season.
Lights, Camera, Action
Every game of the Tempe Regional this weekend will be broadcast live on ESPNU. Beth Mowins and Jessica Mendoza will be on the call throughout the weekend. Each game of the regional will also be broadcast online via WatchESPN.com. This will mark the first time this season the Sun Devils have been featured on the ESPN Family of Networks.
On The Airwaves
for the second consecutive year Blaze Sports Radio will provide the call for all of Arizona State’s home games this season, including all of ASU’s games in the Tempe Regional this weekend. Fans in the Tempe area can tune in at 1330 AM while they can also listen online at ustream.tv/channel/blaze-sports.
A Look Back - UCLA
Third-ranked Sun Devil softball dropped two of three games to second-ranked UCLA in the final series of the regular season. ASU opened with a 2-0 win on Thursday night (Dallas Escobedo reached 300Ks in a single season for the third time in her career), before falling to the Bruins 9-5 (9 innings) on Friday and 9-2 on Saturday.
Players to Watch
The Sun Devils entered the season with four returning NFCA All-Americans on the roster, the most of any team in the country. Only Alabama (3) is within one of the Sun Devils mark and is the only team with more cumulative returning selections (6) than ASU, who has five with Dallas Escobedo being a two-time All-American.
And Then There Were 10
Arizona State University softball’s Dallas Escobedo has been named one of 10 finalists for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, May 27 just prior to the start of the 2014 NCAA Women’s College World Series (WCWS) in Oklahoma City. This award, which is considered the most prestigious honor in Division I women’s softball, is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country. This is the first time a Sun Devil has made the final 10 since Katelyn Boyd was made it to the final three in 2011.
The Road to OKC Goes Through Dallas
For the past three years, Dallas Escobedo has been among the premier pitchers in the nation. The two-time All-American and three-time First-Team All-Pac-12 selection has helped to lead ASU to the WCWS each year since she arrive in Tempe, including a National Championship in 2011. Escobedo is currently 22-7 with a 1.85 ERA and an incredible 310 strikeouts to just 52 walks - for a whopping 6:1 K:BB ratio. She has posted 11 complete game shutouts - allowing just a single hit in six of those while saving her best performance for Longwood in a game of offensive struggles as she no-hit the Lancers for her third career solo no-hitter and fourth no-hitter overall. Escobedo currently ranks third nationally in strikeouts and eighth in shutouts. Before anyone her losses, it is worth noting - with her UCLA loss aside - opponents only managed 21 runs in six losses (3.5 per game) but the Sun Devil offense only mustered 14 runs (2.3 per game) total. On the flipside, the ASU offense has 137 runs in Escobedo’s victories (6.2 per game) and truly had the senior’s back in the Stanford series when Escobedo gave up 12 total earned runs - nearly twice her total entering the series - but still came away with two victories in the series sweep.
Senior Dallas Escobedo now has 131 starts as a Sun Devil. In her career, Escobedo is second at ASU in wins (113), six shy of breaking Katie Burkhart’s school record of 118 for first on the time all-time list. With 310 strikeouts this season, Escobedo‘s career number sits at 1,196 with three seasons of 300+ K’s and she became just the second Sun Devil in history to eclipse the 1,000 K mark with with a strikeout against her very first batter of the Judi Garman Classic. She became just the 14th player in Pac-12 history to accomplish the 1,000 strikeout feat and is currently 40th in NCAA career history and seventh in Pac-12 lore for total strikeouts and is well on pace to continue to climb that leaderboard in the postseason. Opponents are hitting just .197 against Escobedo in general with runners in scoring position with the senior getting out of numerous binds by way of her 49 strikeouts on 127 batters faced in that situation.
Return of the Mack
Lest we forget, Escobedo is just half of one of the most potent 1-2 pitching punches in the country. Fellow senior Mackenzie Popescue has shown she is just as much an ace in the last two seasons and is a pivotal part of ASU’s success. Popescue holds an solid 2.15 ERA this season and 20 wins to her record to just three losses, pitching complete games in 16 games this season, 15 of those being victories. Popescue picked up the third no-hitter of her career in a five-inning, 8-0 victory over Southern Miss. Popescue has also been a capable fielder with 40 assists (fourth on the team) and six puts outs with zero errors thus far on the season.
‘Ber, It’s Cold In Here
The reining Pac-12 Player of the Year, Amber Freeman, continues to consistently get it done at the plate. She leads the team with a .424 batting average this season that is fifth in the Pac-12 and a total that would rank seventh in ASU single-season history. Freeman leads the team with 67 hits and a .495 OBP this season as well, while ranking second in RBI with 44. Freeman has hit safely in all but nine games on the season (including 24 of the last 27) and has reached base in all but four games of the 53 appearances she has made. Additionally, Freeman has just one single error this year, recording 293 putouts and 10 assists for a an almost perfect .997 fielding percentage. She leads the team in most games with multiple hits, doing so in 18 games while tied for the team lead in games with three or more hits with five. Freeman has been pivotal in keeping the inning going and is leading the team with 23 hits when she’s at bat with two outs on the board on 58 attempts (.371) with 13 two-out RBI and four of her 10 homers in such situations. There’s plenty more situational love for the junior, who has also had 111 opportunities to advance runners from the three-hole and has successfully done so 63 times (.568).
Just Getting a Read On Things
On the season, Amber Freeman is batting .370 on 17-of-46 hitting in the first innings of games from the three hole with seven RBI, two homers and a .565 slugging percentage. Not bad numbers by any stretch when you look at just one inning of action. However, that’s before you see what she has done the second time through the order against pitchers. In the third and fourth innings this season, when Freeman typically takes her second at-bat of games, she is batting an incredible .529 on 27-of-51 hitting with 15 RBI, 5 homers and a whopping .902 slugging percentage.
On the season, Cheyenne Coyle is batting .320 with 43 RBI while also drawing 42 walks, good for second on the team and third in the Pac-12 while those 43 RBI are third on the team. Coyle has a team leading 14 hits on 16 attempts (.875) when she has a runner on third and less than two outs. On 60 leadoff opportunities this season, Coyle has safely reached base on 34 of them (.567). She leads the team with 12 homers this season and currently ranks 12th in ASU history with 32 home runs, despite playing just under two seasons with the Sun Devils. Coyle was among the hottest hitters in the lineup in the last three series of the regular season, batting .391 on 9-of-23 hitting with nine walks, three home runs, nine RBI and a .576 on-base percentage along with an .826 slugging percentage.
Red Bull Gives You Wigness
Bailey Wigness continues to remain at the top of the Sun Devil batting average list this season, currently second with a .355 average and a .377 career average that would rank fifth in ASU history if the season ended today. It was her single to the pitcher in the bottom of the eighth inning against then-No. 16 Nebraska that brought home the game-winning walk-off run in 1-0 victory at the Judi Garman Classic. Wigness has advanced runners on 48 of 72 chances (.667) this season - easily leading the team in the category by nearly 100 points over anyone who has had at least 40 oppurtunities to advance runners.. Wigness also leads the team in steals this season with 13, which is tied for eighth in the Pac-12. She had three in the series finale against Southern Miss.
Haley Steele has made no reservations about wanting to be an All-American this season and she is putting up the numbers to back it up. The junior is batting .349 (third on the team) on the year with 11 home runs (second on the team) while knocking in a team-leading 47 RBI. Steele has been among the Sun Devils’ most successful batter when it comes to advancing runners, doing so 60 times of 121 attempts (.496). As if that weren’t enough, Steele has also posted the most hits with runners in scoring position in logging 25 hits in such situations. Steele became the only player this season to reach four hits in a game, doing so in a 10-inning, 3-2 loss to Washington. She is tied for the team lead with Freeman for most games with three or more hits at five.
‘Ru-sci-o, ‘Ru-sci-o, ‘RU-SCI-OOOOOO
Elizabeth Caporuscio is another Sun Devil that has been putting together an exceptional year and is currently batting .333 (fifth on the team) with a team-leading 17 doubles in the process - good for second in the Pac-12 and second in ASU single-season history. Her 53 hits are third on the squad while she has posted a solid .369 on-base percentage. She currently leads the team with 16 two-out RBIs and has proven she is the hitter you want with the bases loaded, with five hits in 11 opportunities (.455) and a grand slam this season. She also leads the team overall with 18 multi-hit games while being third on the team with 23 hits with runners in scoring position.
Alix Johnson has been among ASU’s most reliable base runners this season, even when her batting has struggled. Johnson is batting .268 on the season but still finds herself with an on-base percentage of .441 that is good for second on the team behind Freeman. Her 48 runs scored are 12 more than any other Sun Devil. Additionally, Johnson is second on the team with 12 stolen bases on 14 attempts and is 10th in the conference. Where Johnson has truly shined, however, is her ability to take bad pitches. Her 48 walks pace the team and are five more than anyone else in the Pac-12 conference. She has successfully advanced runners on 46 of 84 opportunities (.548) this season. She has served as the leadoff batter in 64 innings this season, safely reaching base on 29 of those chances for a .453 average.
While numerous Sun Devil newcomers have shined in the spotlight this season, none have had as impressive an impact as Chelsea Gonzales. The freshman is batting .341 on the season -fourth on the team - and has been exceptional at getting her bat on the ball. Gonzales has struck out just 12 times - the least among Sun Devil starters - while posting a .366 on-base percentage. She led the team lead in two-out RBI with 13 in Pac-12 action while going 4-for-6 in league play with the bases loaded. She had 20 RBI in Pac-12 games this season, a total that also led the team. Gonzales’ performance this season earned her a spot as one of 25 semifinalists for the National Freshman of the Year trophy while she was also named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team for her efforts.
B’s In the Trap
Bethany Kemp had one of the top performances of the weekend at the Littlwood Classic. Kemp batted .417 with five hits on 12 at bats. The more impressive feat, however, was the four of those hits went over the fence as the junior led the team with four home runs over the three days of competition. The junior is currently second on the team 11 home runs this season. Kemp is fourth on the team with a .593 slugging percentage and has drawn 30 walks on the season, which is good for third on the roster. Kemp has already surpassed last year’s total (9) with 11 homers this season and - with 20 career home runs to date - is 19th on ASU’s all-time home run list.
There have been plenty of longballs this season for the Sun Devils, who are currently third in the Pac-12 and 10th nationally with 67 thus far this season. ASU entered the Diamond Devil Invite with 15 home runs before knocking 14 out of the park of the course of the four day event. ASU is currently on pace to finish the season with around 80 home runs at its current clip if it played 62 games as it did last season - a total that would be good for the sixth highest amount in program history. ASU has a home run in all but 18 games this season and is 33-3-1 in games where it hits a home run.
No Home Runs For You
While ASU has had no problem with the long ball this season offensively, they also haven’t had much of one on defense either. ASU’s pitching staff has given up just 28 home runs to date - a mark that is third in the Pac-12.
More Time For Activities
The Sun Devil offense has ended games before the seventh inning 18 times this season. ASU has four run-rule victories in Pac-12 action thus far and has already surpassed last year’s season total of 15 total run rules while inching closer to the school record of 24, set in 2012.
Grand Slama Jamma
The ASU offense has booted six grand slams this season, two more than last season and just two shy of the total from the last two years combined (8).
All Your Base Are Belong To Us
ASU has 47 stolen bases on 57 attempts in 2014. In 62 games last season, the Sun Devils were 39-for-45 on stolen-base attempts.
Don’t Miss Your Chance
ASU has been successful offensively this season largely because it has taken advantage of its opportunities when they’re there. With runners in scoring position, ASU’s batters are 171-of-518 (.330) while being exceptional at bringing runners home from third with less than two outs, going 80-of-128 in such situations (.625). Of course that means you have to get runners in a position to score to begin with, and ASU’s batters have done just that in going 485-of-916 (.529) when it comes to advancing runners. And of course, someone has to get on base to make any of this a possibility, another feat ASU batters have been exceptional at. ASU’s leadoff batters this season have reached base 151 of 334 times (.452) while the Sun Devils are 195-of-621 (.314) with the bases empty on the year. To show the importance of these numbers, ASU is just 16-of-101 (.158) with runners in scoring position in the team’s eight losses and 5-of-17 (.294) with a runner on third and less than two outs. Bringing runners home has also been an issue for ASU at times, as the team has stranded 371 runners this season - including seven games that have reached double digits - compared to just 298 on the opponent’s side.
ASU is now 6-7 this season when trailing by less than three runs following the fifth, sixth or top of the seventh innings in games this season. That’s notable as prior to the Stanford series, ASU was 0-5 in such games. ASU stifled that stigma twice against Stanford as they came back from a two-run deficit in the seventh to tie the game and win in extras in the first game of the series before a five-run walk-off rally in the seventh in the final game. The Sun Devils added another to the tally with a four-run fifth inning to come back from a 1-0 deficit against Arizona in the second game of the series. The Sun Devils were also able to overcome a late Utah home run that gave the Utes a 4-2 lead in the sixth inning and ruined UW’s Kaitlyn Inglesby’s perfect game/no-hit bid in the seventh inning after trailing 1-0 in that game. A three-run rally in the top of the sixth against No. 1 Oregon gave ASU it’s third straight win in such a scenario.
Home Run Records
Six current Sun Devils rank among the top 20 on the all-time home run list at ASU. Amber Freeman is fifth with 41, Haley Steele is tied for seventh with 36, Alix Johnson is ninth with 35, Cheyenne Coyle is 12th with 32, Elizabeth Caporuscio is 17th with 23 and Bethany Kemp entered the ranks this season and is currently 19th with 20.
Add It To The Trophy Case
Dallas Escobedo went 4-0 at the Judi Garman Classic and put up some gaudy number at pitcher in the process en rout to a sweep of every major national and conference Player of the Week award. She was named the National Player of the Week by both the NFCA and USA Softball as well as the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week. Escobedo registered a 0.26 ERA and 38 strikeouts over 27 innings of work. Over the course of the four victories, Escobedo held her opposition to a paltry .060 batting average and a grand total of five hits. Included among her impressive efforts was her fourth career no-hitter, earned during a 13-strikeout blanking of Longwood, a one-hit shutout of then-No. 5 Michigan (nine K’s), 10 strikeouts while permitting just a single base knock in outlasting then-No. 16 Nebraska, 1-0 (8 inn.), and five innings of three-hit ball while allowing her only earned run for the week in a 9-1 (5 inn.) rout of Wisconsin. It was her first NFCA honor, third USA Softball award and the seventh Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week honor for the senior ace.
Order a New Trophy Case
Dallas Escobedo continued her career haul of honors as she was selected as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 National Pro Fastpitch Draft by the Pennsylvania Rebellion, entering their first season of action on the circuit. Just a day later, Escobedo was named as one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award, which is given annually and honors the attributes of senior student-athletes in four areas: community, classroom, character and competition. She has also been named as one of 25 finalists for the ASA/USA Softball Nationa Player of the Year honor.
Note on WCWS
The Sun Devils have advanced the WCWS in seven of the last eight seasons, two more than any other program in the nation in that time frame. Alabama, Tennessee, Arizona and Florida have each been to five in the same span. In that eight-year span, ASU has one of the top winning percentages in the country with a 427-102 record since 2006. The .807 percentage is tied for third nationally with Michigan behind only Alabama (.837) and Florida (.810).
Winning Percentage Since 2006 (Prior to 2014)
1. Alabama - .837 (432-84)
2. Florida - .810 (437-102)
3. Arizona State - .807 (427-102)
Michigan - .807 (385-92)
5. Tennessee - .804 (421-102-1)
6. Oklahoma - .803 (384-93-1)
7. ULL - .775 (373-108)
8. Missouri - .748 (374-126)
9. UCLA - .747 (345-117)
10. Texas - .742 (347-120-2)
Opening Day Success
Arizona State is now 38-7 on opening day dating back to 1971. The last time ASU lost its first game of the season was back in 1995.
Where 2013 Left Off
The Sun Devils dropped two games in the 2013 WCWS en route to a 50-12 season overall. The appearance in the WCWS was ASU’s seventh in the last eight seasons, two more than any other team in the nation in that time. The Sun Devils finished the year 16-8 in conference play and tied for second in the Pac-12 with Washington. The team opened the season with a porgram best 21-0 record to start the season and finished the year with an incredible 40-3 record at home. Catcher Amber Freeman was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year while Freeman, Dallas Escobedo and Cheyenne Coyle were all named NFCA All-Americans.
Sam Parlich | 2B, .348 avg, 10 HR, 41 RBI, .541 SLG%, .368 OBP%, 61 starts
Lucy Aubrecht | C/DP, .313 avg, 5 HR, 27 RBI, .542 SLG%, .417 OBP%